After a two-year hiatus, I'm going back to farming.
Nothing large-scale or too serious. But I've missed growing my own tomatoes and zucchinis, and I love grilled eggplant, so all three are part of my new victory garden.
You may be wondering, "Where's the wine hook?" Well it's coming.
I didn't grow vegetables the past two years, despite advice from many that growing your own saves you money and gives you superior quality produce. I'm surrounded by people who are professional farmers—grapegrowers, that is—and theirs is a serious endeavor, with everything on the line (or vine).
My past gardens would often ripen at times when I was gone, and the sneaky zucchinis growing unseen to the size of a wiffle ball bat often frustrated me. One year I noticed my ripest tomatoes disappearing the day before I'd hoped to pick them. Then one morning I caught my golden retriever harvesting them off the vine!
But after two years, I realized how much money I spent on tomatoes; I love BLTs and could live off them alone.
The wine angle is this: If you have a great tomato year, the wines should also be great. It's a flimsy theory, but you hear it all the time in wine country. I've been to fall dinner parties were people swore they knew what the grape crop would be like based on how easy or difficult their tomato season went.
I imported my terroir, a mix of organic soils, steer manure and topsoil. My veggies are, for the most part, tightly spaced. I intend to keep the crop low and get to the zucchinis while their blossoms are edible. I've seen how Thomas Keller serves his veggies. They're dinky. I even bought some catnip for my feline, Jarvis, hoping that might deter him from digging, or thinking the fresh soil is something I've created for him. Last night I traded wine for a few hundred tiny red worms from a nearby worm grower, and these little wigglers are now residents. A curious bluejay watched from a tree as I tilled them into the soil.
I also intend to thin my tomatoes just like the real grapegrowers thin their crops.
I have some office competition as well. MaryAnn Worobiec is the dean of our backyard gardeners. She'll have lots of veggies and tomatoes. She lives in a warm area of Napa and pays attention to the crop.
Tim Fish told me yesterday that he's giving tomatoes a go again this year after a troubling year in 2009. Tim lives in Santa Rosa, in Sonoma, which gets very hot in the summer, but also cools off during the night and stays overcast on many days. His tomatoes have not always been easy to grow. He said he has a new breed that supposedly ripens in cooler weather. Good luck, Tim.
It's been a tricky spring here in Northern California. We've had summerlike weather in March and very chilly, windy days, too. We've also had enough rain to declare the drought over (I believe).
So, the tomato-wine quality relationship theory has been put into the ground; only time (and perhaps the tomatoes) will tell what 2010 has in store.
John C Winkelmann — Cincinnai — May 7, 2010 4:09pm ET
Wilson Daniels Ltd — St. Helena, CA — May 7, 2010 5:36pm ET
James Laube — Napa, CA — May 7, 2010 6:22pm ET
Tracy Hall — Sonoma, CA — May 9, 2010 1:59pm ET
Robert Hight — CA — May 9, 2010 8:45pm ET
Richard Scholtz — Austin, TX — May 10, 2010 5:33pm ET
Carissa Chappellet — St. Helena, CA USA — May 10, 2010 5:37pm ET
John B Vlahos — Cupertino Ca. — May 10, 2010 7:05pm ET
Eric P Perramond — Colorado Springs, CO — May 11, 2010 11:11am ET
Brian Hays — Campbell, CA — May 11, 2010 8:02pm ET
Tim Mc Donald — Napa,CA — May 25, 2010 7:04pm ET
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